The Emotional Barrier


We cannot effectively speak to someone about Jesus Christ and salvation when there is relational tension between us; only through our love and concern will we earn the right to be heard.

Many unbelievers have a negative attitude toward organized religion or Christians because of painful experiences they have had in the past. Those who have been raised in oppressive or legalistic homes or whose only association with Christianity is hypocrisy and exploitation will naturally develop an emotional barrier to the gospel. The only effective way to overcome this barrier is to build relational bridges by loving and serving outsiders in areas of common interest. Walls are easier to build than bridges, but people will never believe we want them in heaven when we don’t want them in our living rooms. Distrust and negative stereotypes are gradually overcome by being a safe, non-manipulative, loving, and trustworthy friend.

It has been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. As we pray for our non-Christian friends and cultivate relationships based on common-ground activities, they begin to see a quality of life and a hope in us that requires an explanation.

We cannot effectively introduce ideological tension (the message of Jesus Christ to an unbeliever) when there is relational tension. It will only be through our love and concern that we will earn the right to be heard. Friendship expressed through common-ground activities with unbelievers is a bridge that enables us to go into their world to bring them into ours. The cultivation of friendships takes time and effort, but this is by far the most effective vehicle for the communication of the message of life in Jesus.

Many believers fear that if they spend any time with outsiders, it will cause them to compromise their convictions. But Paul wrote that “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22; see verses 19-27). Regardless of what people were like or where they were in their spiritual pilgrimage, Paul sought to identify with them as much as possible. His primary procedure in helping them come to Christ was to establish common ground without compromise. He consistently applied the principle of communication without contamination.

If we always talk in general terms about reaching the world for Christ, we may miss out on reaching the world in which we live. Our task is to be faithful in concentrating our attention on the people God has placed in our spheres of influence. The parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:3-7 illustrates the need for individual attention and concerted effort to seek that which is lost (cf. Luke 19:10). It is easy to spend our time keeping the ninety-nine comfortable and to forget about the one that is lost. The shepherd left the flock to graze in the pasture and diligently pursued the missing sheep until it was found. He focused his attention on the one because each individual is of great value. This is why heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7, 10, 32).

Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth


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